The use of bamboo for flooring has grown greatly in the past two decades as more homeowners have been attracted to its beauty, durability, and environmentally-friendly characteristics. While bamboo is actually a grass, not a wood, it is included in wood floorings because it's more similar to wood than other material.
Buyers of bamboo flooring can choose from a selection of colors and shapes including tiles, planks or laminated strips. Hardwood bamboo (as opposed to laminate) costs from about two to five dollars per square foot at home improvement stores. Planks may be protected using urethane in a high-gloss, semi-gloss, or matte finish depending on the preferences of the homeowner.
There are three types of bamboo flooring: hardwood, laminate and engineered. The first uses bamboo shoots glued together to form planks; laminate bamboo uses an image of the shoots glued onto a mixed-wood core; and engineered flooring combines an underlying wood plank with a thin layer of bamboo.
The manner in which the bamboo is laid out into allows for different styles. Planks come in vertical or horizontal assembly giving buyers the option of either classic exposed grain (horizontal) or a more uniform look (vertical). Woven bamboo uses recycled materials that are shredded, compressed and sealed to provide the hardest form of flooring.
The length of warranties on bamboo flooring varies by manufacturers with some offering ten years while others will cover the material for wear and manufacturing defects for up to 25 years. Consumers should check on the warranty provided prior to purchasing bamboo flooring to ensure they are well covered. The length of the warranty provides an indication of the durability of the product.
Bamboo flooring is harder than oak and cypress but softer than rosewood and beech on the Janka hardness scale, which measures the force required to drive a steel nail into a piece of lumber. Janka ratings assist buyers in determining the hardness and therefore the durability of wood flooring materials.
Bamboo flooring can also be rated on its aesthetics such as color variations, plank width, and the grain patterns of the grass shoots. The tightness of the grain is eye appealing as are the slightly darker rings around its nodes. Selections based on aesthetics take into consideration the room in which the floor will be installed as well as the existing fixtures including any wood trim and furniture.
The quick growth of bamboo makes it a highly renewable resource and one of the "greenest" flooring materials available. Bamboo cut for use in construction can regenerate to its original size in just six months compared to most trees that require 20 to 50 years to re-grow.
Another environmentally friendly characteristic of bamboo is its naturally occurring anti-bacterial agents that repel pests and thus eliminate the need for pesticides. Because it grows in dense clumps and forests, it inhibits the growth of weeds and so herbicides are not needed.
Processed bamboo, on the other hand, is actually less green because of the chemicals used in the treatment of the wood including adhesives, color stains, and urethane protection. Buyers can inform themselves on the methods used to manufacture the planks to determine whether natural wood-coloring processes were used rather than stains. Some manufacturers also offer water-based, solvent-free finishes.